In this age of exploration a lot of attention has been paid to what lies out beyond our planet and what swims about in the darkest depths of our unexplored seas, but an area that seems to get significantly less attention is the world that lies locked down in the never-ending black night below us. Here caves and caverns stretch out and meander over vast distances, sometimes harboring new discoveries beyond our wildest dreams. Yet the most bizarre and baffling supposed accounts of the deep places of the earth are those concerning strange, unknown civilizations long gone, who are claimed to have dwelled within the earth and that remain lost and unconfirmed. Covering everything from giants from the inner earth, to aliens, to reptilian monsters and the protectors of mysterious lost religious artifacts, here are some of the weirdest claims of supposed lost civilizations that supposedly rose and fell beneath the world as we know it.

One of the most seemingly absurd claims of an underground civilization was detailed in a 1956 bestselling book called The Third Eye, which is an allegedly autobiographical account by a man named Tuesday Lobsang Rampa, outlining his experiences at Chakpori Lamasery, in Tibet. Among the wealth of strangeness in the book, such as Rampa’s operation to drill a hole in his head to release mysterious mental powers, the titular Third Eye, and the strange discovery of his own mummified body from a previous incarnation, there is his curious account of finding a vast subterranean world crafted by inscrutable entities under the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

Tagong Temple Tibet 864x576
A monastery in Tibet

Here beneath the palace of the Dali Llama, he joined a priest to explore a system of caves whose walls were adorned with strange symbols and drawings by unknown hands. Following one tunnel down into the darkness, Rampa claimed to have come across a vast cavern with an underground lake and a ceiling so high he could not discern its height as the light did not reach all the way up the soaring chasm above. Here the walls held mysterious geometric diagrams and diagrams, as well as pictures of giants and machines the likes of which he had never imagined, along with inscrutable writing in some puzzling alien language. They then took a side passageway that wound off and purportedly came to an area with a “black house,” within which were ensconced three sarcophagi apparently made of a smooth black stone similar to obsidian and which were covered with an array of strange symbols and what looked to be a star map of some kind. Within these were the bodies of strange giant beings, which the priest who had accompanied him explained as being the bodies of ancient “gods,” who had come to their world eons before. Rampa would say of these bodies:

I looked again, fascinated and awed. Three gold figures, nude, lay before us. Two male and one female. Every line, every mark faithfully reproduced by the gold. But the size! The female was quite ten feet long as she lay, and the larger of the two males was not under fifteen feet. Their heads were large and somewhat conical at the top. The jaws were narrow, with a small, thin-lipped mouth. The nose was long and thin, while the eyes were straight and deeply recessed. No dead figures, these-they looked asleep.

Things got perhaps even more bizarre yet as they continued their journey through the complex spider web of dank caverns, tunnels, and passageways. Within the oppressive gloom here below the earth Rampa claimed that they came across fantastical creatures the likes of which he had never seen skittering about, as well as a brightly lit room hidden behind a sliding wall panel, which held an array of strange dormant machines with inscrutable purposes he could not fathom. When this tour was finished, Rampa claimed that he had then gained the new ability to look through time, and that he saw visions of the ancient ages when these enigmatic giants he has seen had ruled the earth. As incredible as all of this talk of an ancient race of subterranean giants sounds, it is impossible to verify any of this, no evidence has ever been brought forward other than this account, and there has actually been much debate as to Rampa’s true identity or whether this was all a hoax. We may never know.

Tales of ancient races of enormous stature inhabiting the deep dark places of our world are actually rather numerous, and another tale of subterranean giants comes from the state of Missouri, in the United States. In 1885, the New York Times ran a truly astounding story of an ancient underground city that had been found at a depth of 360 feet during the digging of a shaft for a coal mine near Moberly in Randolph County, Missouri. Two men, a David Coates and Mr. George Keating, then delved down into the depths of the shaft to explore what had been discovered down below, and they would later claim that they had come across an immense underground city which was described thus:

A hard and thick stratum of lava arches in the buried city, the streets of which are regularly laid out and enclosed by walls of stone, which is cut and dressed in a fairly good, although rude style of masonry. A hall 30 by 100 feet was discovered with stone benches and tools of all descriptions for mechanical service. Further search disclosed statues and images made of a composition closely resembling bronze, lacking luster. A stone fountain was found, situated in a wide court or street, and from it a stream of perfectly pure water was flowing, which was found to be strongly impregnated with lime.

This is already a fairly bizarre thing to find underground in Missouri, but within the nearly impenetrable murk of these corridors the two men claimed to have found the actual remains of the city’s denizens, which had apparently been there in the dark undisturbed for millennia, and were described as being true giants far larger than a normal human being. The bizarre remains were described thus:

The bones of the leg measured, the femur four and one-half feet, the tibia four feet and three inches, showing that when alive the figure was three times the size of an ordinary man, and possessed of a wonderful muscular power and quickness. The head bones had separated in two places, the sagittal and the coronal suturis having been destroyed. The implements found embrace bronze and flint knives, stone and granite hammers, metallic saws of rude workmanship, but proved metal, and others of similar character, they are no so highly polished, nor so accurately made as those now finished by our best mechanics, but they show skill and an evidence of an advanced civilization that are positively wonderful.

Frustratingly, the article mentions that a follow-up excursion would be launched, but then there is no other word on the alleged discovery. Unbelievably, this ancient underground city of giants in North America was just sort of forgotten in the mists of time. Why should this be? Of course there is the very real possibility that this was a fictionalized fake news story, which were unfortunately rather common in the day, but there have been rumors that the phenomenal discovery was covered-up, perhaps by the Smithsonian. This would be yet another conspiracy painting the Smithsonian as a shadowy organization bent on obfuscating and burying bizarre archeological finds, such as that time they supposedly orchestrated a cover-up of a subterranean civilization found under the Grand Canyon, which I have written of here before. Did this strange city ever exist, and if so what happened to those gargantuan bones? No one knows, it was never mentioned again, and the lost underground city of Missouri remains just another weird historical oddity.

The idea of such underground giants can be perhaps linked to the Hollow Earth Theory, which more or less states that within our planet rather than layers of rock, crusts, and magma is a lush world full of life and even with its own miniature sun, all of which sits deep within the hollow crust that we walk upon. The idea can trace its roots back to the 17th century, when Edmund Halley proposed in 1692 that the earth consisted of a series of spherical shells that all orbited one another around a hollow core, an idea which he concocted in an effort to explain various mysterious discrepancies in compass readings. Within each of these shells, he theorized, could be areas that were capable of harboring life and even civilization.

The idea caught on, and underwent a sort of evolution, undergoing various additions and iterations until it was no longer a series of layered shells, but simply one vast world lying within a hollow space below us. Indeed, in those days the theory gained such popularity that it was accepted as fact by many, and was even believed by those within the scientific community of the time. The idea that there were two major entrances to this underground realm, located at the North and South Poles, was pursued by some expeditions, the most famous being that of a John Cleves Symmes, Jr. in 1822, who remained a vocal, outspoken proponent of the concept and was thoroughly convinced of the theory's validity up to his death. Although eventually the concept of a Hollow Earth fell out of favor, it has nevertheless been held onto by stubborn believers all the way up to the present day, and there are a surprising number of books and websites devoted to trying to gain credence for it.

Although there are many offshoots of the basic core theory of a hollow Earth, an interesting common detail of many of these ideas is that the animals and people who dwell there are larger than those who inhabit the earth above. The giant people of these civilizations are often described as being the ancestors of ancient peoples, and as being highly advanced, with the technology to tunnel up through the ground where their dwellings and evidence of their existence can be detected by us. According to Hollow Earth “truthers,” these stories of ancient subterranean civilizations and giants can be seen as evidence of their far-out ideology.

Underground giants and civilizations within a hollow earth are certainly strange notions, but there are other claims of strange peoples living under the earth as well, and the perhaps one of the weirdest claims of subterranean cities is one that appeared in the January 29, 1934 edition of the LA Times. The article, which was written by a Jean Bosquet, told of the amazing discoveries and outlandish theories of a geophysical engineer by the name of G. Warren Shufelt, who believed that he had actually managed to locate and prove that an ancient mysterious inhuman race that he called the “Lizard People” had set up a vast underground cavern system under the Los Angeles area thousands of years ago.

According to the article, Shufelt learned of this subterranean complex from an old Native American man named Macklin, who supposedly explained to him that this was one of three such lost cities located along the Pacific coast, and that these had been built by a forgotten race, possibly reptilians of some sort. The legend was that these creatures had retreated underground after a “huge tongue of fire” measuring several hundred miles wide had wiped out everything in its path around 5,000 years ago. The article describes this complex:

The lost city, dug with powerful chemicals by the Lizard People instead of pick and shovel, was drained into the ocean, where its tunnels began, according to the legend. The tide passing daily in and out of the lower tunnel portals and forcing air into the upper tunnels, provided ventilation and “cleansed and sanitized the lower tunnels. Large rooms in the domes of the hills above the city of labyrinths housed 1000 families “in the manner of tall buildings” and imperishable food supplies of the herb variety were stored in the catacombs to provide sustenance for the lizard folk for great lengths of time as the next fire swept over the earth.

G. Warren Shufelt with one of his devices

Within this underground city were supposedly numerous solid gold tablets measuring four feet long and fourteen inches wide, which were apparently inscribed with the history of the human race, as well as countless priceless artifacts and other treasure. Shufelt was mesmerized by this incredible story, and scoured the region searching for this lost city. He purportedly finally managed to locate it through “radio x-rays,” which showed him an intricate array of tunnels, caverns, and catacombs, as well as deposits of gold, “over an area extending from the Public Library on West Fifth street to the Southwest Museum, on Museum Drive, at the foot of Mt. Washington.” Shufelt would expound on his amazing discovery and the nature of this underworld thus:

I knew I was over a pattern of tunnels, and I had mapped out the course of the tunnels, the position of large rooms scattered along the tunnel route, as well as the position of deposits of gold, but I couldn’t understand the meaning of it.

Shufelt went on to claim that he had managed to make tentative maps of the system using his equipment, and that he had been able to take radio x-ray photographs of thirty-seven of the legendary tablets, three of which had had their southwest corners cut off. He also came to the conclusion that these Lizard People had been very advanced for their time, and had lined the tunnels and rooms with a type of sophisticated cement far stronger than anything humans possessed. He believed that he had captured proof of all of this, and he allegedly went about launching an excavation to bore down through the earth to reach the mysterious lost city. The article says that he managed to dig down to 250 feet towards this goal, and that he had plans to go as deep as 1,000 feet, but there is no further update on this progress or what he managed to find. Indeed, since this is the only report mentioning the Lizard People of Los Angeles and their city, again it is unclear whether this is a fictionalized account or a real discovery that was covered-up. It is a strange story whatever the case may be.

In other places of the world we come to Japan, where there is not only said to be some mysterious underground civilization, but where by some theories the legendary Lost Ark of the Covenant and other artifacts are supposedly buried. For those who have never seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Ark of the Covenant was a chest of sorts that was supposed to hold the Biblical 10 commandments handed from God to Moses atop Mt. Sinai, and which was said to have the power to decimate the enemy of those who wielded it. I have written of this on Mysterious Universe before thus:

There are numerous accounts of the Ark unleashing its alleged mighty powers. In 1,400 BC, when Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan River into The Promised Land, the Ark is said to have caused the waters to stop flowing and dry out, allowing them all to pass unhindered. On another occasion, the Israelites besieged the city of Jericho, with God commanding that the Ark be carried around the perimeter of the city once a day for seven days while blowing on trumpets crafted of ram horns. On the seventh day, the Israelites gave out a thunderous shout, and the once formidable walls of the city of Jericho spectacularly collapsed to the ground, allowing the Israelites to enter.

The Ark would go on to be used against the Philistines in battle, with the hopes that this powerful weapon would help the Israelites ultimately win. However, God had not ordered the Israelites to go to war with the Philistine army, and was displeased that the Ark would be used without His consent. Subsequently, the Israelites lost the war and the Ark was captured by the Philistines, who hoped that they would now be able to harness its vast holy powers. Unfortunately for them, rather than a great ally, the Ark proved to be a curse upon them, causing misfortune wherever it went, such as disease and even a plague of mice. After seven months of the Ark bringing them nothing but misery, the Philistines returned it to the Israelites and it was taken to the village of Beth-shemesh. Here it would once again display its power when a large group of curious villagers decided to look upon it and were immediately struck down by its wrath.

The Ark eventually was moved to Jerusalem, after which it disappeared into the lost tides of history after the Babylonians sacked the city between 597 and 586 B.C. Ever since, it has become second only perhaps to the Holy Grail itself for being the most sought after lost historic relic, and many have tried and failed to find it, leaving many questions in its wake. Was the Ark destroyed? Was it hidden away before the sacking of Jerusalem? Was it stolen? Did it ever really even exist at all? These are great historical mysteries, questions for which no one has any definitive answers, but there are many who have tried to figure them out.

One man seems to think he has the answer, and he believes that it wound up in one of the last places anyone would guess it could possibly be, at Mt. Tsurugi, in Tokushima prefecture, Japan. In the 1930s, a scholar named Masanori Takane noticed several peculiar parallels between the Bible and a legendary Japanese book of myths called the Kojiki (“Record of Ancient Matters”), and he deduced that the Ark of the Covenant had ended up hidden within Mt. Tsurugi. He was so convinced of this, in fact, that in 1936 he began a 3-year project to begin digging into the mountain in search of the lost relic, which would uncover perhaps more than he had bargained for.

Down there under this sacred mountain they reportedly found a warren of tunnels and rooms carved out of the rock, which Takane surmised had been created by some ancient race perhaps for the purposes of hiding something of importance. The 3-year dig would stretch on to 20, with other groups joining in over the decades. One such expedition in 1952 attracted a good amount of attention when a former naval admiral by the name of Eisuke Yamamoto discovered what appeared to be marble corridors within the mountain, as well as human mummies that had decomposed. Weirdly, both Takane and Yamamoto suddenly and inexplicably stopped all further excavations and attempts to find the Ark shortly after this discovery. Why? No one really knows.

One more excavation was carried out by a treasure hunter named Yoshun Miyanaka in 1956, but his efforts were brought to a halt by the creation of a nature preserve called Tsurugi-san Quasi-National Park, which includes Mt. Tsurugi and much of the surrounding area in 1964. This new status as a nature preserve made it illegal to conduct archeological digs on Mt. Tsurugi, and so Miyanaka was forced to abandon his valiant search empty handed. It also meant that no one else would be able to look for the Ark here, and all of the the artifacts, tunnels, corridors, and mummies that were found within the mountain will likely forever remain an enigma. We are left to wonder just who dug this subterranean complex, why they did it, and whether the Ark of the Covenant truly did end up in Japan, perhaps still buried down there in the eternal darkness. Indeed, to this day, it is not known where the Ark of the Covenant is, nor even any truly concrete evidence to show that it was ever even real at all.

There are certainly other tales out there of mysterious lost civilizations and structures buried deep down in the earth below us, and these are just some of the more unusual. It seems at times that these depths, aliens to the light of day and untouched for eons, are every bit as mysterious and misunderstood as the furthest reaches of space or the deepest depths of our seas. What lies at the root of the cases we have looked at here? Who were these people and did they ever exist or are these tall tales? If they are real then who were they? Inhabitants of a Hollow Earth, aliens, a lost race, something else? No one knows. Many of us may not think of what lies below our feet as we go about our daily lives, but lurking down in the perpetual gloom are perhaps secrets and mysteries that have remained buried since time unremembered, and perhaps always will.

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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